By Jamil Jivani, June 2, 2022
There is an emerging consensus among Canadian journalists and politicians on Quebec’s Bill 96, which requires most government and many business services to be offered exclusively in French, with specific exceptions. Before jumping on any bandwagons, we should try to understand what exactly is happening in our country’s second biggest province.
Anglophone Canadians may reasonably conclude that Premier François Legault and his ruling Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) are on an island unto themselves. Five of six Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidates have publicly opposed Bill 96, as has the Conservative Party of Quebec, the Quebec Liberal Party, and numerous members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal caucus.
The general criticism of Bill 96, which was signed into law Wednesday, comes down to its potential to marginalize anglophone minority communities and non-francophone immigrants. Comments from the political left and right sound remarkably similar: former NDP leader Tom Mulcair described the bill as a return to a period of “great darkness” for Quebec, while the Washington Post’s JJ McCullough said it detracts from “Canadian progressiveness.”